Earlier this summer, Saskatoon hosted the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3×3 Basketball World Tour Masters in the downtown streets. The event came just after the announcement that three on three basketball will be inducted to the Olympic Games.
A new sport called 3×3 basketball has been up and coming for the past 10 years, and its popularity has recently begun to increase in North America. It is a fast-paced game played on a half-court between two teams of three players. The games only last 10 minutes each, and unlike a traditional sports event, they are played on a court in the street, which gives the game an urban feeling.
FIBA took on the new sport in 2010, and it was soon added to the Youth Olympic Games. Julien Debove, FIBA’s 3×3 basketball communications manager, explains the addition.
“Basketball is a very popular sport worldwide, but there are so many people that play basketball on the streets that don’t necessarily have a licence and are not counted among the players who play basketball,” Debove said. “And so, in 2010, FIBA made the recommendation to add 3×3 as a new discipline at the Youth Olympic Games.”
Saskatoon became involved in the sport this year, marking the first of three years in which the city will host the World Tour Masters. Chad Reynolds, media specialist at Tourism Saskatoon and organization committee member for the World Tour Masters, discusses how Saskatoon became involved in 3×3 basketball in North America.
“The Saskatoon team was performing very well worldwide, and Todd Brandt, acting managing director of Saskatoon Sports Tourism, went out to the finals last year in Abu Dhabi, [United Arab Emirates],” Reynolds said. “We had a bid in to house the FIBA 3×3 World Tour in Saskatoon this year, and it worked out great as the tournament was looking to break into the [Canadian] and U.S. [markets].”
Because of Saskatoon’s early involvement in the sport, it will be the only city in Canada and the United States to host a World Tour event this year. Reynolds discusses the importance of this achievement.
“Saskatoon introduced 3×3 basketball to Canada,” Reynolds said. “Canada Basketball got heavily involved after we had secured the three events here in Saskatoon, so I think it’s going to start to be a bigger and bigger deal here in Canada, and Saskatoon is going to be the face of that for the next three years.”
The organization committee for next year’s event will soon begin planning their improvements for the next World Tour Masters in Saskatoon. Among these changes, the high turnout this year suggests a need for larger stands to accommodate more spectators next time, Reynolds explains.
“We were all very pleasantly surprised with how many people came out, and even before we opened the gates there [were] lineups down the street, so word had apparently gotten out,” Reynolds said. “Next year I think we are going to have to double the stands to fit all the people in.”
With all the buzz around the sport, the International Olympic Committee made the decision in early June to add 3×3 basketball to the program for the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
“Three-on-three grew and grew every year, to the point now that in 2017 the International Olympic Committee announced that not only will 3×3 continue to be in the Youth Olympic Games, it will also be added as a second discipline of basketball in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020,” Debove said.
With the exciting news of its addition to the Olympics, as well as the upcoming two years that Saskatoon will host the World Tour Masters, 3×3 basketball is the game to watch on in the coming years.
“Three-on-three is more than just a sport and more than just a game. The 3×3 events are seen as a proper urban culture festival, so music is everywhere. Every game, there is music non-stop. We have breaks between the games, where we have break dancers and entertainers,” Debove said. “The concept is to bring basketball directly to the people in the heart of the cities.”
Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor